Abortion debate goes mainstream in Malta
MSIDA, Malta — The controversial debate on Maltas stringent abortion laws has shifted from Facebook ..
MSIDA, Malta — The controversial debate on Maltas stringent abortion laws has shifted from Facebook forums to the highest levels of politics just in time for the European election.
In the weeks leading up to Saturdays ballot, the opposition Nationalist Party took out billboard adverts across the island championing the partys anti-abortion message. Its leader Adrian Delia called the European election a “referendum on abortion” — accusing the ruling Labour Party of secretly supporting greater abortion rights.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was pressed to respond, and said the government doesnt have a mandate to change abortion laws. Ninety-five percent of Maltese do not agree with abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation (a health service available nearly everywhere else in Europe), according to the most recent polls.
In a country with one of the highest number of social media users and some of the strictest abortion laws in the EU, abortion has always been a hot topic on Facebook forums. After Irelands major shift this year, Maltas abortion-rights activists have ramped up pressure to take that debate mainstream — and say they are gaining traction.
“Its moving faster now than Ive seen in 10 years,” said Lara Dimitrijevic, the director of Maltas Womens Rights Foundation.
“Whether they vote green, whether they vote left, whether they vote right, center-left or center-right, the people we hear, they do not want abortion” — Alfred Sant, Labour MEP
“Abortion has raised its head here in almost every election since the mid- to late-90s,” said Antoine Borg, an independent MEP candidate, adding that its long been considered political suicide in the country. “But the tide of popular opinion is changing too. In days gone by, we would have never had a feminist group openly arguing for abortion. We wouldnt have had a group of doctors arguing the same point. Now we do.”
Those in favor argue Muscat has a big enough cushion of support — his party leads the Nationalists by 15 percentage points, according to a poll this month — to speak out in favor of abortion rights, and move in line with socialist parties across the bloc. Both anti-abortion and abortion-rights campaigners say they believe some Labour politicians may be personally in favor of changing the law. In a small but significant shift, the prime minister said during a media interview this monththat its time for a “sober discussion” on the “important subject.”
Yet the ruling party remains steadfast in its position. Labour MEP Alfred Sant, a former prime minister who has been knocking on doors as he bids for reelection, said over and over that “this is not an issue” for voters.
“Whether they vote green, whether they vote left, whether they vote right, center left or center right,” Sant said, “the people we hear, they do not want abortion.”
Building a movement
Mina Tolu has heard the phrase “political suicide” a lot in the past few months.
Driving around the island, the Maltese MEP candidate and French fellow candidate Antoine Tifine had a routine for getting their message across in the late hours of a warm Friday night. When they found a good spot, Tolu pulled the car over and Tifine jumped out to tie a couple of campaign posters (a flyer glued to recycled hand-cut carboard) to poles, some of which ended up upside down in the rush.
“Were just trying to make some noise,” said Tolu.
Tolu, who identifies as a nonbinary trans person, is a big name in Maltese LGBTQ activism — famously calling out Hollywood actress Emma Watson three years ago for using “she” pronouns, when Tolu uses “they” and “them.”
Running as an MEP for the countrys Green party, Democratic Alternative, Tolu was the first to mention abortion in the election, calling for a “respectful debate” in a Facebook video that went viral in February. “Why cant we discuss this in a way that goes beyond these posts and comments on Facebook? Why is it an issue thats being ignored?”
Shortly after, one of the founders of Democratic Alternative left the party in protest to start his own MEP campaign.
Tolu has practically no chance of winning a seat in the European Parliament. But after the U.K.-based Abortion Support Network announced at the start of the year that it would extend its services to Malta, helping women traveling for an abortion, Tolus video was significant.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says his government doesnt have the mandate necessary to change abortion laws | Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images
In March, the Womens Rights Foundation and other civil society organizations announced a “pro-choice coalition” for the election calling for abortion laws to change. A group of 50 doctors supporting abortion rights formed in May.
Dimitrijevic, sitting in the shade at a café in Valletta, suggested the Nationalist Partys strong intervention has in some ways legitimized their campaign. Much of the partys messaging seeks to argue that abortion could become a reality in Malta if people vote against the conservatives.
After the success of Irish activists, their Maltese counterparts are “employing the same tools,” said Mara Clarke from the Abortion Support Network. But Malta is a long way behind. “Ive been joking and saying that its 50 years behind where Ireland was 10 years ago,” Clarke said. “But its probably 10 or 20 years behind where Ireland was 10 years ago.”
She added, “But I think things will move faster. I hope anyway.”
“It would never be accepted over here. It would be the red light in Malta” — Ivan Grech Mintoff, Euroskeptic MEP candidate
Anti-abortion activists are getting louder too. Ivan Grech Mintoff, an MEP candidate standing for the Euroskeptic Alliance for Change (AB) party, spearheaded a pledge to enshrine Maltas strict abortion laws into the constitution. The Nationalist Party signed it, as did the far-right Maltese Patriots Movement (MPM) and center-left Democratic Party (PD) — although PD candidates have since raised concerns. Labour and Tolus AD were the two parties that did not sign the pledge.
Grech Mintoff also created a Facebook group against abortion that gathered more than 21,000 members in three weeks. He sees that as clear proof Malta does not support abortion.
“It would never be accepted over here,” Grech Mintoff said. “It would be the red light in Malta.”
On a lonely island
Why is Malta an outlier on abortion in Europe? Some abortion rights activists say its the Catholic Churchs influence; some say its how small the country is; some say its simple patriarchy.
For others, even asking the question means you dont understand Malta.
“Remember we were only very recently [a member of] the EU, so you couldnt go [work] anywhere in other countries, and we didnt have many foreigners coming here,” said Francesca Fenech Conti, the founder of the Women for Women Facebook group. “We were an island alone for many years in the middle of the Mediterranean, totally ruled by religion.”
This, Conti said, creates a closeness but also a “society that is always judging you.” Conti wrote her university thesis on women who had unplanned pregnancies due to contraception failure. She spoke to one woman about her visit to the doctor 10 years ago for a pregnancy test.
After getting the results, her doctor told her: “Youre pregnant! I told your mother!” Conti recalled.
“Everybody knows each other,” Conti said.
An anti-abortion billboard in Malta | Jillian Deutsch/POLITICO
The countrys stance on abortion has held even as it became a beacon for progressive LGBTQ policies. After decades of grassroots campaigning, Malta legalized gay marriage in 2017 and offers gay and lesbian couples access to IVF — it was ranked at the top of 49 European countries in the latest Rainbow Europe Map.
The country legalized divorce in 2011 and the morning-after pill became available in 2016. Abortion remains illegal in any circumstance.
Its not possible to know the total number of women who have illegal abortions, but according to estimates cited by the Womens Rights Foundation, around 200 women order abortion pills online and nearly 400 travel abroad for an abortion each year.
One woman, Fleur (not her real name), did so 15 years ago after she got pregnant from a one-night stand. At the time she was a student, holding down two jRead More – Source
How does overeating affect the immune system?
Overeating is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. While it is widely understood that excessive eating leads to obesity and other health problems, many people are unaware of the impact that overeating has on the immune system. In this article, we will explore how overeating affects the immune system and what can be done to prevent or mitigate the damage.
The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism against harmful substances and infections. It is responsible for identifying and eliminating harmful pathogens and other invaders that may cause harm to the body. When the body is functioning normally, the immune system works efficiently to keep us healthy. However, when the body is subjected to chronic stress, such as from overeating, it can become weakened, making it less effective at protecting the body against illness and disease.
One of the ways in which overeating affects the immune system is by increasing inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection, but when it becomes chronic, it can have a negative impact on the immune system. Chronic inflammation is associated with a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. When the body is constantly exposed to high levels of glucose and other harmful substances as a result of overeating, it can lead to chronic inflammation, which can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness.
Another way in which overeating affects the immune system is by altering the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract and play a crucial role in maintaining good health. When the body is exposed to a high-fat diet, the balance of gut bacteria can become disrupted, leading to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and the suppression of beneficial bacteria. This can result in decreased gut function and reduced immune function, making it more difficult for the body to protect itself against harmful pathogens.
In addition, overeating can also lead to obesity, which is a major risk factor for a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Obesity is associated with a range of physiological changes, including insulin resistance and the release of cytokines, which are signaling molecules that play a crucial role in the immune response. When the body is constantly exposed to high levels of cytokines, it can lead to a state of chronic inflammation, which can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness.
Finally, overeating can also affect the immune system by causing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the body is exposed to an excessive amount of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can cause damage to cells and tissues. When the body is constantly exposed to high levels of glucose and other harmful substances as a result of overeating, it can lead to oxidative stress, which can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness.
In conclusion, overeating can have a profound impact on the immune system. By increasing inflammation, altering the gut microbiome, causing obesity, and inducing oxidative stress, overeating can weaken the body’s ability to protect itself against harmful pathogens and other invaders. To maintain a healthy immune system, it is important to eat a balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, and avoid overeating. By taking these simple steps, you can help protect your immune system and reduce your risk of illness and disease.
Homelessness and mental illness are two intertwined issues that have a complex relationship. Homelessness can cause or worsen mental illness and, conversely, mental illness can contribute to homelessness. It is a vicious cycle that can be difficult to escape, and it is important to understand the ways in which these two issues are interconnected.
Homelessness can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. Living on the streets can be a traumatic experience, with a constant fear of violence, theft, and disease. Homeless individuals often face stigma, discrimination, and a lack of privacy, which can lead to feelings of shame, hopelessness, and isolation. The stress and unpredictability of homelessness can trigger or exacerbate mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mental illness, on the other hand, can also contribute to homelessness. Mental illness can make it difficult for individuals to maintain employment, manage their finances, and maintain stable housing. Individuals with mental illness may struggle with accessing treatment and support, and the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness can also contribute to feelings of shame and isolation. These challenges can lead to a cycle of homelessness and mental illness, where each issue exacerbates the other.
There is a need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness and mental illness. This includes providing safe and stable housing, access to mental health treatment and support, and addressing the underlying social determinants of health that contribute to homelessness, such as poverty, lack of education and job opportunities.
Housing First, a program that prioritizes providing permanent housing to homeless individuals before addressing any other issues, has been shown to be effective in reducing homelessness and improving mental health outcomes. This approach recognizes that stable housing is a critical foundation for addressing other issues, including mental health.
In conclusion, homelessness and mental illness are complex and interrelated issues that require a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address. Providing stable housing and access to mental health treatment and support is critical for breaking the cycle of homelessness and mental illness and improving outcomes for individuals experiencing these issues. It is important to continue to address the root causes of homelessness, including poverty and lack of access to education and employment opportunities, to reduce the prevalence of homelessness and improve outcomes for those experiencing it.
Improving Reception For Children With Cancer – Basque Family Support Association
The association “Tous avec Agosti” wants 2023 to rhyme with new dynamics. For nine years now, the structure has been working to welcome families of hospitalized children in Bayonne. Since 2018, 47 families have been able to find some respite in an apartment in Anglet.
Apartment in Anglet
Since she has benefited from an apartment in Anglet, the association “Tous avec Agosti” has enabled nearly 50 families of patients hospitalized at the Center Hospitalier de la Côte Basque to stay close to their loved ones. This represents 600 overnight stays, 47 families from 23 departments and even from Belgium and Spain. At the beginning of 2023, the structure has just had its prefectural approval renewed and sees things big.
“We have been working in our area for years,” notes Frédéric de Arroyave, the association’s president, but “in 2023, we will show ourselves much more, on the markets for example, but also in acts. The apartment we have in Anglet is a haven of peace for families going through terrible times, but for some it is difficult to access”. The apartment is located on the alleys of the Jardins d’Arcadie, near Biarritz – Pays Basque airport. We want to get closer to the Bayonne hospital.
The association “Tous avec Agosti” was born in 2015. Agosti, 10 years old, is suffering from cancer and taken care of at Bordeaux hospital for 6 months. His father, Frédéric de Arroyave, living in Ahetze, has the possibility of integrating a parents’ house and can stay with his child. Such a structure did not exist in Bayonne, so he launched the project and the association which lives today thanks to donations from contributors and the dozen (very) active volunteers. Each year, approximately 4,000 children are hospitalized in Bayonne.
This article is originally published on francebleu.fr
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